8 July 2013

What an Opposition Does

Back in April, we received some coverage because of our proposal to the Housing Committee to commit Liverpool City Council to a principle of “no evictions” in respect of the Bedroom Tax. That proposal was amended out of existence by the Labour Party in Liverpool.

I’m delighted to say three months on, a motion will be coming back to full council from the Labour Party, which agrees with what we originally proposed, and also incorporates an idea successfully applied in Leeds, about what does and doesn’t constitute a bedroom. This is very welcome. The Labour administration deserve some credit for finally coming round to the way the Greens were thinking on this.

Can I remind the Labour councillors, who variously accused me and other Liverpool Greens of the following:

“…using the bedroom tax to grandstand and play party politics”

“…it'd be an empty promise. @lpoolcouncil isn't the landlord, so how *can* council promise it?”

“Sad that the Greens would rather put forward motions they can't stand behind,enforce or take action on.What's the point in that?”

It was clear that Labour in Liverpool had got it wrong in April. Despite a Green led council in Brighton & Hove, as well as various Labour and SNP councils in Scotland adopting a “no evictions” principle, the defence used for rejecting the Green motion was that it was unworkable. I hope both councillors involved will fully support the motion and won’t end up accusing their own party of grandstanding or empty promises (and probably getting themselves in a lot of trouble now the boss has changed his mind).

We will undoubtedly support this motion, while the Lib Dems will probably abstain. This is an example of how an opposition can put pressure on an administration (even one with a massive majority). In many ways, the coverage given to the Green motion and the “blast” organised by bedroom tax campaigners has had the right effect. Joe Anderson’s increasingly vocal opposition to the Bedroom Tax nationally is now going to be backed up by some policy at a city level and the city has moved forward. The Labour Party nationally hasn't committed to repealing the Bedroom Tax, but Joe Anderson is clearly right to call for them to do so.

We should recognise that in politics, good ideas from all sides should be taken forward. It is better still if we can avoid three months, during which 14,000 Merseyside households fell into debt, before seeing a clear lead on policy from the Mayor and the council.

So when you see the next Green motion (motions will appear here soon) that asks the council to look at taking money from the rich supermarkets, to then redistribute it into the community, look at the reaction of the Labour Party in Liverpool. I hope they recognise a good idea and a way of generating revenue to protect local communities from this national austerity.

However, it is perhaps too much to hope than any Labour councillor will come out in favour of our proposal to reduce council numbers from 90 to 60, saving £300,000 a year, but I would be delighted if even a single brave Labour soul who would be willing to stand up and be counted on this.

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